Manchester United icon Roy Keane believes Declan Rice is a better player than the Irishman was at 22 and has told his former club that he is the missing piece in their midfield. United have long been linked with a move for Rice but one has not yet materialised.
The 22-year-old has become an important player for West Ham and England. He has taken over the captain’s armband at club level, with regular skipper Mark Noble struggling to earn a regular place in David Moyes’ team.
He scored an excellent goal in the Hammers’ Europa League group stage win over Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday. The former Chelsea academy prospect drove from the halfway line before finishing under the goalkeeper.
West Ham valued Rice at £100million in the summer, pricing the likes of United and Chelsea out of a transfer.
Former Red Devils midfielder Keane believes Rice is better than he was at 22 and has insisted that he would make a significant impact at Old Trafford. Keane won the FA Cup with United at the same age.
“He’s obviously a regular for England. There are a lot of plusses for him. There’s a lot more to come from him.
“You see what Graeme talks about – that forward pass, that bit of cuteness… I think that comes with playing in bigger games. He’s always available, he plays the games. That’s a big plus.
“He’s a big presence out there. I think it will be a really good challenge for him today because I’m not a big fan of the United midfield. I think they’re a bit short, so we will see how he does today against them.”
However, Souness has picked out one weakness in Rice’s game and has sensationally claimed that he will eventually move into a centre-back role.
“He’s a seasoned pro already, he’s got great energy levels, he’s an athlete and he senses danger,” the Scot said.
“When it’s going forward and it’s about delivering cute passes I think he’s a wee bit short on that. Will he get that? We’ll have to wait and see.
“I see him maybe ultimately being a defender, the modern central defender has to be good on the ball under pressure and deliver passes, he can certainly do that.
“In midfield I understand he’s learning that game in there it’ll be a terrible waste if he wasn’t using what god give him and that’s the tremendous athleticism. In terms of being that top, top player I’m not sure.”